Commune vs. Discourse: Which is Better for Your Community Success?

Written by Commune

Discover a detailed comparison between Commune and Discourse, focusing on their features, flexibility, and the overall all-in-one ability to elevate your community.

community platform comparison: Commune vs. Discourse

Commune and Discourse are often compared as all-in-one community platforms. In this article, we highlight the features and strengths of each product, aiming to assist you in making informed decisions for launching and managing your online community.

Summary

While Discourse is an open-source community platform, its less flexible framework requires technical expertise for deeper customization and lacks in providing a unified, brand-consistent user experience. Offering a broad suite of features, including no-code customization, advanced moderation, and a white-label app for brand alignment, Commune caters to a wide range of industries and use cases, presenting a more adaptable and user-friendly solution at a starting price of $399. This positions Commune as the superior choice for businesses seeking an efficient, scalable way to engage communities, outpacing Discourse’s more basic offerings and technical demands, especially in terms of strategic support, data integration, and overall platform value.

Commune Overview

Commune is an AI-powered all-in-one community platform. It merges diverse channels of customer communication into a single, fluid interface, empowering community management with its smart design and comprehensive features. The product also leverages insights from millions of users to empower community initiatives, making it an indispensable tool for those launching or managing communities and the company’s internal knowledge and best practices on how best to launch and manage new community ventures.
 

Features

Commune is outfitted with a wide range of features aimed at fulfilling and going beyond the expectations of current community management, lessening the workload on community managers while increasing engagement and improving outcomes.

  • AI-powered comprehensive community tools: from forums and Q&A sessions to surveys, a knowledge base, event planning, and gamification, Commune provides all the necessary tools for dynamic community engagement and management.
  • Personalization and branding: offers a customizable white-label app to boost brand visibility and tailor the user experience.
  • Intelligent automation and insights: features user auto-segmentation for crafting targeted engagement and personalized strategies based on user behavior and activity.
  • Custom content solutions: recommends tailored content for each user based on in-depth analysis of user interactions and history, ensuring content relevance and engagement.
  • Expert strategic guidance: provides specialized strategic consultations from experienced community professionals, including actionable strategies and campaign management to align community efforts with business goals.
 

Industry segments

  • Equipped to accommodate all types of business structures, including B2B, B2C, and nonprofit organizations.
  • Flexible to meet the needs of a vast array of sectors, spanning from SaaS and industrial production to commerce, showcasing its flexibility and comprehensive relevance.
 

Primary use cases

  • Extensive organizational use: applicable to a variety of business endeavors, encompassing community management, marketing, client success, and product management.
  • Varied business goals: facilitates numerous aims like fostering communities, streamlining the onboarding process, educational initiatives, expanding customer support capabilities, inspiring product innovation, gathering feedback, conducting studies, and boosting client interaction.

Discourse Overview

Discourse is an open-source discussion platform for building online communities. The product aims to empower organizations, businesses, and individuals to connect with their audiences and build vibrant, engaging communities.

Features

  • Simple forum features: Discourse offers a range of tools and features that make it easy to communicate, collaborate, and share information. Discussion feeds are designed for users to have simple and seamless communication experiences. The analytics feature appears rich, with the ability to filter data using a variety of variables such as time range, post counts, and topic views.
  • Open-source platform: Discourse is described as “an open-source platform that gives developers access to the source code for customizations.” The platform offers a wide range of plugins, allowing for flexible and precise customization if technical knowledge is available on your team. However, the hosted version of Discourse does not offer a robust developer platform for customizations or building custom integrations.
  • AI assistance: Discourse actively works on functional improvements through AI, including displaying related content, summarizing topics, and providing AI bot search assistance, and content creation assistance. AI is utilized to assist the finer aspects of various functions and to improve the convenience of the product.
 

Industry segments

  • Primarily focused on small businesses
  • For various types of organizations (B2B, B2C, and nonprofits) that have a need to build a versatile online forum space

     

Primary use cases

  • Simple discussion feed that facilitates easy user interactions.
  • Q&A board between users, encouraging knowledge sharing and problem-solving.
  • General scaling of customer engagement and the product ideation/feedback system with community input.

Key Values Comparison

An “all-in-one” community platform 

Discourse specializes in creating forums centered on text communication, such as discussions and Q&A between users. It is not designed for use cases like help centers, events management, community success, user learning systems, and onboarding support. While it excels in discussions on specific themes, like developer forums or inter-user knowledge sharing, it falls short in supporting broader needs like learning about a company’s services or products, driving retention, upselling, gaining user insights, or fostering community connections.

In contrast, Commune is a community success platform that offers more than just a single-function space. As an all-in-one solution, it efficiently facilitates community building and operation, driving business outcomes. It provides integrated solutions for a range of activities and use cases, including:

  • User onboarding
  • Providing a Q&A forum
  • Distributing community newsletters
  • Creating help pages
  • Managing learning content
  • Event management
  • Collecting product feedback and surveys

     

While Discourse theoretically allows for the construction of a community space by integrating various single-function tools, this method is impractical due to the high costs and complexity of integrating different platforms. Moreover, the lack of seamless data integration leads to inefficient operations and a subpar user experience. In comparison, Commune offers built-in all-in-one functionality at a reasonable price, and most importantly, it enables the automatic aggregation of data in one place. This facilitates rapid, data-driven improvements, significantly enhancing the user experience.

 

Analytics capabilities

Guiding a community toward success requires a precise comprehension of the community’s collective condition and the situation of every user, utilizing data insights. It’s also vital to continuously refine strategies through the examination of this data, integrating external data sources when required.

Although Discourse provides basic web analytics capabilities, it is insufficient in delivering specialized community analytics like cohort and power user analyses. In contrast to Commune, Discourse does not support the automatic creation of groups from analytical insights, hindering the execution of data-driven actions. Furthermore, its restricted data export options pose challenges for effective data-driven community management.

On the other hand, Commune allows for a comprehensive understanding of the community’s overall state, from group segment data to offering a holistic view that follows the footsteps of each user and their journey. It enables specialized community management analytics, such as cohort analysis of active users by month/week and power user analysis, which are crucial for measuring the health of the community. These analyses can be utilized without the need for complicated settings by default and seamlessly integrated into group creation. As a result, Commune facilitates personalized experiences and data-driven decisions. Easy CSV export of each data point is available, and data can be instantly retrieved via API or webhook for analysis in combination with other data sources.

 

Strategic services

Launching a community is easy, but leading it to success is challenging. Managing a community solely in-house can lead to resource shortages, the absence of benchmarks, and limited knowledge. This makes it difficult to take the best actions when the optimal strategies are not clear. Merely utilizing an online community platform does not guarantee success, given these complexities.

In this respect, Commune offers expert strategic guidance by well-vetted community professionals, providing strong support for community management. This approach provides a direct path to overcoming the challenges mentioned and achieving community success.

On the other hand, while Discourse does offer customer support, migration, and design support for higher-tier plans, it is inadequate in providing the specialized support and consulting that drive a community to success, as Commune does. Discourse lacks the comprehensive operational and data-driven insights provided by Commune, which are crucial for facilitating community success.

 

White-label app

In today’s mobile-centric world, where smartphone usage and app interactions are ubiquitous, the availability of a native app becomes not just an added value but a necessity for BtoC and BtoB or SaaS entities alike. Brand consistency plays a pivotal role in how a company’s identity is perceived across various platforms, making the integration of a native app a critical element of the user journey.

Discourse provides an application known as Discourse Hub, allowing users to access various community workspaces under one umbrella, similar to Slack’s workspace model. However, this app’s customization limitations—unable to alter its name, design, imagery, or notifications—mandate adherence to the Discourse branding, potentially diluting individual company brand identities and undermining efforts to build brand equity.

Further compounding the issue, user feedback suggests the app lacks the polish expected of a native application, functioning more as a basic web browser than a fully realized app. Critics argue this diminishes the user experience, with suggestions that creating a direct web shortcut might offer a more satisfactory solution. Such critiques highlight a missed opportunity for Discourse to provide a more engaging and branded mobile presence.

Screenshot of an app store review on

Conversely, Commune sets itself apart by delivering an optimized native app experience complemented by the availability of a white-label app option. This pivotal feature empowers companies to seamlessly integrate their unique brand identity into iOS and Android touchpoints, ensuring a uniform and branded user experience. Through this approach, Commune enables organizations to maintain brand consistency across mobile platforms, enhancing user engagement and reinforcing brand loyalty.

Pricing Comparison

Discourse’s entry-level plan is priced at $50 per month and includes limitations for private and invite-only spaces. The community plan escalates to a starting price of $100 per month, while the cost for their Enterprise plan remains undisclosed. Although this pricing may appear affordable, it is crucial to evaluate if it encompasses all essential features and support for efficient and effective community management, as outlined in our key values comparison. Otherwise, the need to use additional tools or to employ more engineers, designers, or other resources might inflate the total cost significantly.

Commune offers four plans starting at $1,999, allowing for flexibility based on the desired features and variable factors such as the number of users or administrators. With services included in the pricing along with the features that ensure smooth community management, Commune provides substantial value in offering a truly all-in-one experience to community managers.

Discourse’s Pros

Customization

The customization capabilities of Discourse and Commune offer a study in contrasts, highlighting the distinct approaches each platform takes to empower community managers and developers. Discourse, with its array of APIs, integrations, plugins, and authentication options, opens up a breadth of customization options, allowing for a degree of flexibility in tailoring community forums. Simple customizations that don’t require coding can lead to the quick deployment of forums with straightforward user interfaces. Yet, the pursuit of deeper, more intricate customizations—such as overhauling the community’s structural design or implementing specific design elements—demands developer expertise. This necessity poses a hurdle for teams without immediate access to such resources, underscoring a limitation in Discourse’s adaptability and the ongoing need for technical intervention to keep the community platform aligned with evolving user expectations and trends.

Conversely, Commune’s foundational philosophy embraces a no-code approach, significantly lowering the barrier to comprehensive community customization and management. This approach not only democratizes the process of community building but also accelerates the ability of community managers to respond to and implement changes. With Commune, the creation and adjustment of visual elements, user permissions, group dynamics, and content do not require specialized technical knowledge, empowering community managers with direct control over the platform’s look and feel. Moreover, for those desiring to delve into more complex customizations, Commune provides advanced tools for editing HTML and configuring APIs, webhooks, and SSO settings, thereby catering to a wide spectrum of customization needs without sacrificing user-friendliness.

Embedded feature

Discourse offers an embedded option that facilitates the integration of community features directly into apps or websites, enhancing user experience by allowing interactions to occur within familiar digital environments without the need to switch to a separate community site. This feature is pivotal in maintaining user engagement and streamlining access to community resources.

Commune is set to expand its offerings by introducing a similar embedded feature by April 2024. This planned update simplifies the process of incorporating community elements into existing apps and websites, ensuring that the integration is not only easy but also tailored to fit each platform’s specific requirements. The addition of webhooks further enhances this capability, ensuring that community notifications are efficiently communicated within the embedded environment, in browsers or apps.

Moderation

Discourse is equipped with powerful moderation tools, allowing for the maintenance of healthy and focused discussions. The moderation tools enable the community to suppress spam and dangerous content, and to resolve disputes amicably. It includes built-in Akismet spam protection and heuristics such as new user sandboxing, user flag blocking, and standard nofollow features, in addition to other robust features such as inline and bulk moderation and flag queuing.

In contrast, Commune employs a dual approach to moderation, combining advanced automated systems for filtering and flagging with human oversight for nuanced decision-making, ensuring double-layered quality assurance. This strategy not only ensures robust quality control but also preserves the subtleties of human interaction, fostering a more understanding and responsive community environment.

Customer Reviews and Testimonials

G2 Reviews

Commune holds an advantage in all aspects, evidencing its superiority in terms of product completeness as well as the quality of support, including services. 

Left: Commune, Right: Discourse

In terms of functionality, Commune is rated higher in almost all categories. As explained in the Key Values Comparison, this indicates that Commune is valued for providing the features and value required for community management as an all-in-one solution. It also highlights the quality of its analytical capabilities, including the analytics dashboard.

Left: Commune, Right: Discourse
Left: Commune, Right: Discourse
Left: Commune, Right: Discourse
Left: Commune, Right: Discourse
Left: Commune, Right: Discourse

Customer testimonials

Discourse users have voiced several concerns regarding key aspects of the platform, particularly around customization and user experience (UX). The platform’s customization options are noted for their limited flexibility, often necessitating developer expertise for more sophisticated adjustments. Furthermore, the UX poses substantial challenges, with a noted absence of intuitive features for modifying and improving the community’s aesthetic. This deficiency restricts the ability to craft a distinct and engaging design that captivates the user base.

G2 reviews on Discourse

Commune supports extensive customization through its array of box functions, including forums and knowledge bases, which can be easily modified and rearranged without any coding required. Additionally, features like HTML embedding and a white-label app facilitate effortless personalization and ensure brand consistency that aligns with the company’s identity throughout the user experience. This level of customization and branding can be achieved without the need for developer involvement, enabling straightforward and efficient implementation of community projects directly within Commune.

G2 review on Commune

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, while Discourse provides a solid foundation as an open-source community platform, it falls short in flexibility and requires considerable technical knowledge for deep customization, making it challenging to achieve a cohesive, brand-aligned user experience.
 
Conversely, Commune stands out with its extensive feature set, encompassing effortless no-code customization, sophisticated moderation capabilities, and a white-label application option, ensuring brand consistency across all touchpoints. Priced starting at $399, Commune offers a superior, user-friendly platform that adapts to various industry needs, making it the preferred choice for organizations in search of an effective, scalable solution to foster community engagement. With its advanced advisory support, seamless data integration, and comprehensive value, Commune surpasses Discourse, especially for businesses aiming for strategic growth and community success.

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